Moving Forward – Peggy and Richard Rothschild: The Story Beyond their Fire Story

Written by Judy Salamacha

July 14, 2022

Peggy and Richard Rothschild moved to Los Osos after losing their home to a fire.

Dogs romping on a beach, mysterious humans invading her privacy, and a severed hand uncovered by a K9 with a nose for clues. Author Peggy Rothschild had me at ‘dogs romping,’ then I turned the page and was hooked. What’s not to love about lifeless bodies showing up in an ex-cop’s new neighborhood? I read “A Deadly Bone To Pick” in a weekend and can’t wait for her sequel, “Playing Dead.”

But there was still a mystery unsolved. I needed to know Rothschild’s personal story. I was intrigued by her book-cover bio — “After losing their home during a California wildfire, Peggy Rothschild and her husband moved to the beach community of Los Osos along the Central Coast. When not at her desk or out walking, you can usually find her in the garden.”

That was it? Reading between the lines I thought if ever there was a ‘Moving Forward’ story Peggy Rothschild may have been through hell and came back on the other side of paradise.

I attended her book signing at Coalesce Book Store simply to meet her face-to-face and let her know I was already a fan having read and loved her book. I instantly liked her warm smile and easy conversation. I also met Richard, her husband, who joined the conversation as if we were old friends reconnecting. A few days later I heard part of her interview on The Dave Congalton Show on KVEC. I learned several points about her book-publishing journey, but where was the fire story? We met for lunch in Los Osos — by now two friends ready to solve the worlds’ problems — while discovering each other one question answered at a time.  

“I probably wouldn’t have written the book without the fire.” She meant the Thomas fire that started in Santa Paula December 2017. “Gusty winds up to 70-mph took out all but four homes on our street in Ventura. I had just left Yoga Class. It was so cold.”

She and her husband evacuated to a parking lot with both cars and four cats. “I had three. Richard took one. Our vet in Port Huenemi was so kind. He allowed us to board the cats and set up a treatment room for visits. We had just adopted Pinkerton. She was not happy we had to uproot her space again.”

“I probably wouldn’t have written the book without the fire.” Author Peggy Rothschild meant the Thomas fire that started in Santa Paula December 2017. “Gusty winds up to 70-mph took out all but four homes on our street in Ventura.”

As their house was being rebuilt Rothschild would stress whenever the winds kicked up. “I’d freak out at night and couldn’t sleep.” The rebuild was not what they had hoped it would be. “The only thing we loved was the two-sided, see-through fireplace and a kitchen counter. It was not a happy place.”

The couple had vacationed in Cayucos and Morro Bay and had friends who had moved to Los Osos after their Ojai fire incident. “We didn’t know Los Osos,” Rothschild explained. “My best friend trained me on Zillow. We found five homes. We checked the fire potential. A fireman gave us comfort that Los Osos was somewhat protected by the marine layer wetness.” They moved in February of 2021. 

“It was weird moving during COVID,” Rothschild said. “We still need to get to know our neighbors other than waving to them from our deck while we are enjoying a glass of wine and loving life again.”

COVID-time also birthed her book. “I met my agent (Melissa Jeglinski, Knight Agency) through a literary Twitter contest intended to polish an author’s query letter. I had written a couple of mystery books that were much darker. Some agents answered my query letters and even said they liked my work but couldn’t sell it. Melissa asked for 100 pages of my manuscript. She then called and wanted to talk. I thought we’d talk about revisions, but it became a long conversation, I really enjoyed. She suggested I write a ‘cozy’ mystery.”

Typically, this mystery style has a female sleuth, an unsuspecting victim, a quirky supporting cast, plus a trail of clues and several whimsical distractions. Expect all these ingredients in “A Deadly Bone to Pick,” including a precocious home-schooled child with a dog that needs training by Molly Madison, ‘dog wrangler extraordinaire.’

It just so happens Rothschild’s best friend, Nancy Withrow, is not only an animal communicator, but is also a dog agility trainer. Her expertise continues to school Rothschild in the language of dogs as she drafts “Playing Dead” scheduled to publish Feb. 8, 2023. She pitched me a piece of the plot, “Noodles competes in an agility competition and Harlow tests out his overactive smells during a Barn-hunt for rats. This has been fun to write.”

Peggy Rothschild seems to have found her community. She is already secretary of the Los Osos Valley Garden Club and joined SLO Nightwriters.

But what about Richard? After all, they were a couple who’d sat “in the fire.” Peggy said he’d been teaching career education classes in Ventura and music was his passion. I sensed he had not found his people yet. My connector personality kicked in, and I suggested we meet again in Morro Bay on a Thursday when Savory Palette presented Open Mic Night. Family and friends had said it was a welcoming place for musicians.

We spent most of the evening enjoying a variety of songsters and musicians sharing their well-practiced three tunes. Richard and Peggy appeared to enjoy it. I didn’t realize until after I had asked him about their decision to move to Los Osos that attending a musical event was a risk for him. They had given me an earlier clue; they had prepared an excuse to bolt if Richard was triggered more than he could handle. The couple had moved to paradise, but they had yet to heal from the trauma they had lived through in Ventura.

“We had to keep moving forward,” said Richard, “looking towards something else. Old solutions didn’t work.” He had a houseful of percussion instruments he’d gathered from all over the world. All were gone. 

“State Farm would have replaced them,” he explained, but one day while at BooBoo Records, he walked out with CDs and the realization he would never go back to replenishing his collection. “I needed a fresh start. I’m spending my time learning jazz piano. I like doing it and I’m finding my way.”

There is still blowback that both Peggy and Richard Rothschild face.  “We’ll take a walk and think we have it all behind us then see a house being built and all the anger with our contractor comes back,” said Peggy. “We could have taken a lump sum buy-out from State Farm, but we chose to itemize all we lost. It was a long intense memory trip searching the value of items we had gathered over the years. I’m compulsive about documenting everything we have now, but we are also not collecting. We are learning to take happiness in little bites where we can get it.

“We have a large family room where Richard spends hours playing his music,” she said and smiled her warm smile. “It has a view of Morro Bay.” And they have their cats. And Peggy is doing the publishing dance promoting her first cozy mystery while having fun solving her second contracted ‘cozy’ with her best literary buds, Harlow and Noodles.

Find “A Deadly Dog Bone to Pick” by Peggy Rothschild at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay and Volumes of Pleasure Book Shoppe in Los Osos.

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